Inclusivity, sex positivity, and condoms, condoms, condoms! That’s what Condom Couture is all about. This prophylactic Project Runway combines high fashion and safe sex to create a fashion show showcasing extravagant designs, handmade by local artists, designers, and creatives and made of over a thousand colorful condoms. Not only is the show going to be quirky and sexy and fun, but it’s for a good cause, too: 100 percent of ticket sales and proceeds from a live auction (where attendees can bid on the pieces modeled) benefit Planned Parenthood Southeast. The event’s organizer and creator Felicia Julien talked to Georgia Voice about what attendees can expect from the event, the impact Planned Parenthood has on the community, and the messages she hopes to send with Condom Couture.
Julien got the idea to bring the event – which has multiple, separately-run shows across the country – to Atlanta after being a designer for one in Charlotte, North Carolina, where she lived before moving to Georgia. Julien is a painter and a fulltime retail employee, so organizing an event this size wasn’t exactly in her wheelhouse. All she knew was that she wanted to help Planned Parenthood any way she could.
“Bringing on this event on was just to raise money for Planned Parenthood,” she told Georgia Voice. “I wanted to support this badass group that’s standing up and standing so strong against administrations that are trying to shut them down. They’ve lost so much funding, but they’re for everybody in the community.”
And Julien really emphasized that the reproductive health care and sexual education organization is for every body – two words. “Planned Parenthood doesn’t just provide STD screenings and ultrasounds. They also provide checkups, prophylactics, and hormone therapy treatments,” she said. “They really focus on the right of everyone to receive affordable, judgment-free health care. It’s not just for heterosexual pregnant women with breasts and a vagina; it’s for every single person. If you don’t want a child, they will help you. If you’re planning to have a child within a same-sex marriage or partnership, they will also help you.”
The Planned Parenthood fundraiser brings condom-centric designs from a total of fifteen designers (thirteen designing garments, two designing accessories like necklaces and earrings), ranging from professional fashion designers to artists who stand with the cause, to the runway. Why condoms? Julien says because they represent “the end of sexual stigma.”
“Wearing [condoms] fashionably is kind of announcing this power one has over his, her, or their own reproductive health,” she continued. “I wanted to promote the normalization of sex education and conversation. We’re just stressing that we own our own bodies and we’re going to fight for our rights. It’s going to be really sexy, really quirky, all-inclusive, and empowering – it’s going to kick some ass.”
The event doesn’t end with the fashion show: attendees can expect performances from RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 2’s Nicole Paige Brooks, standup comedienne Annie Lockwood, Creative Loafing’s 2018 Best Burlesque winner Royal Tee, and C.C. Stevens, a vaudevillian who will perform a circus act for the crowd. Rebel Groove, a dance team focused on sexy fitness hip-hop that Julien herself is actually a part of, will also perform. Among the performers, designers, and models, the event will provide oodles of LGBTQ representation.
“The majority of us are LGBTQ – and it was something I didn’t even realize [while planning],” Julien said of the lineup. “We have [designer] MoDest Volgare, who is a local transgender drag queen – she’s currently hosting Miss Edgewood, a drag competition at Noni’s. We have Diego as a designer; he works a lot with Wussy Mag and just performed at Playhouse. We have Trevor, another designer, whose husband will be modeling his outfit for him. We have RuPaul Season 2’s Nicole Paige Brooks performing. Our emcee will even be making their drag debut as Comet.”
While Julien’s main goal with the event was to raise money for Planned Parenthood, she hopes the event will bring people together and convince the community to rise up and make a difference.
“I really want Condom Couture to just call people to action,” she said. “I love seeing all the marches that go on and participating in women’s marches or reproductive rights marches. However, I believe that a real call to justice isn’t always just moving and screaming in the streets – which totally helps, I’m 100 percent a supporter. But I really want to start to build a community and fight differently. And for me, coming together and forming an event that’s playful and fun and exciting to raise money is a way to do it.”
“I want Condom Couture to bring together communities: all races, genders, sexualities, all humans fighting for our voices, our rights, our lives, and each other,” Julien continued. “My goal is to just bring in people who stand for the same thing and help others come into the community and feel comfortable with themselves and raise awareness.”
Condom Couture makes its Atlanta debut on Saturday, Nov. 9 at Westside Cultural Arts Center from 8-10pm. Tickets are on sale starting at $50 at condomcoutureatl.com.